Authors: Callie McKenna
Once an Alpha
(The S Files: Paranormal Investigation Agency – Book 1)
2014 by Callie McKenna
**Warning: This novella contains explicit sexual situations with a sexy shifter which may be objectionable to some readers. Not recommended for anyone under the age of 18.**
Please respect the work of this author. No part of this book may be reproduced or copied without permission. This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.
This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Any similarities to events or situations is also coincidental.
2014 Callie McKenna
All Rights Reserved
Editing: V. Beckett
Cover design: L. Armstrong
Cover image licensed by Canstockphoto
Once an Alpha (The S Files – Book 1)
Rocky Mountains, Colorado - 1998
“Wanna hear another scary story?”
I rolled my eyes and grinned as Billie, one of my fellow Girl Scouts, looked around the campfire at all the rest of us with a mischievous gleam in her eyes. She was an outgoing and popular young kid, with stories coming out of her ears. Never failed to be a source of amusement on our camping trips, even though her scary tales were all total bullshit.
“Sure, Billie, go ahead,” one of the other girls said, clasping her hands together in anticipation.
We were mostly all fifteen years old, except for a couple of the younger thirteen and fourteen year olds who’d been allowed to come, and we were camping for part of the summer in the Rockies with our adult troop leaders. I knew being a Girl Scout at my age was considered unforgivably nerdy by a lot of other kids in my school, but I tried not to care too much. I thought it was awesome. We got to go on fun trips and do cool activities, and on top of all that, it taught us to be independent and take care of ourselves. Even out in the wilds.
“Okay, have any of you heard of the Lost Trail? It’s near this town called Creede,” Billie asked.
A few of us nodded. It was a nice place to go hiking and camping. Amazing views. I’d been there once when we were on a ski trip to the mountainous state with my family, and I’d damn near frozen my butt off. It certainly wasn’t the sunny California I was used to.
“Well, that isn’t the
Lost Trail,” she said. “The original Lost Trail was a little further north from here, near a town called Bakewell Springs. The trail got its name from a group of ski hikers who went missing after hiking off it in the 1950’s. Ten of them. All decided to do a winter ski hike up the mountains together, and they were never seen again.”
She paused for dramatic effect, and some of the girls around the fire leaned in closer as we all waited for her to continue with bated breath. “Well, no one knows what really happened that night, but here’s the full story of what they do know. The ten of them were grad students from the University of Colorado. They were all experienced ski hikers, so when nothing was heard from them in quite some time, friends and family sounded the alarm and a rescue operation was launched. Course it was harder back then…no cell phones or anything. Anyway, a week after the rescue mission was launched, they found their tents on the eastern shoulder of a mountain. The tents seemed to have been cut open from the inside.”
At this, Billie paused again, and a petite blonde girl muffled a shriek. “Why would they do that?” she asked timidly, blue eyes wide with fear.
“I’m getting to it,” Billie said, waving her hands at the girl as the crackling flames from the fire made dark shadows dance all over her face. “Anyway, the hiker’s clothes and shoes were still in the tent. So something had caused them to wake up in the middle of the night and run for their lives, without even enough time to open the tent properly or put their clothes on. And it was freezing. Snow everywhere.”
My heart pounded as I listened to the story, wondering what on earth could terrify ten people in the middle of the night so much that they would flee like that, without so much as putting their shoes on. If it was even true, that is.
“Anyway, they found footprints leading down the side of the mountain, where there was a forested area. They followed the trail, but after a while it was too covered in fresh snow to be of any use. Then they found two of them dead, and they were the only two that were ever found. They were buried under several feet of snow in a nearby ravine, which made sense seeing as the search had taken so long. It was weeks of snow building up on them, and it was lucky they were even found. The medical examiners found that they had sustained massive chest fractures due to some kind of extreme pressure, similar to the force of getting hit by a car. And one of them had his tongue torn out.”
This time the blonde girl from earlier did shriek, and I felt my blood run cold. I knew it was probably just a made-up tale like all of Billie’s other stories, but she had put a lot of effort into making this one as creepy as possible.
“And that was all they ever found,” Billie went on. “The other eight were never seen again. And that mountain their tent was found on…it’s now called the Mountain of the Dead.”
She said that last part loudly and clearly, and a few girls jumped as she grinned around at us. “Scary, huh?”
“I don’t know,” I said, breaking the apprehensive silence a moment later. “Isn’t it possible they were hit by an avalanche? They heard it coming, dashed out of their tents without time to dress, and then got hit somewhere along the way. Maybe the other eight bodies were just buried so deep somewhere under the snow that they couldn’t find them. And getting hit by an avalanche could explain the injuries on the other two, right?”
My parents had always taught me to examine things as rationally as possible.
Don’t just believe things straight off the bat,
Think critically about it. There’s an explanation for everything.
And in this case, I had to say that it was probably damn hard to outrun an avalanche in the middle of the night if that was what had occurred.
“I knew one of you would say that, Myla,” Billie said with glee. “And that’s what they thought at first too. But….there was no evidence of any avalanches in the area at the time. So something
made them get out and try to run.”
“Holy crap,” another girl said. “That really happened?”
“Yep,” Billie replied. “Look it up!”
“I wonder if it was Bigfoot that got them!” another girl chimed in. They all started talking about the paranormal things that could have happened to the ski hikers, and I leaned back and listened. Aliens. Sasquatches. Ghosts. A military or government conspiracy and cover-up.
I rolled my eyes inwardly. I didn’t need to look it up to know it was all make-believe. There had never been a lost ski hiking group, and there was certainly no Mountain of the Dead. We didn’t need to worry. There was no such thing as paranormal activity of any kind. Everyone knew that. Right?
Washington DC - 2011
Trying to smooth back my crazy black curls, I braved the cool morning winds and stepped out of the car and onto Pennsylvania Avenue. I’d been called in to the main FBI building in central DC for a meeting with Director Armstrong, and I had no idea why. Hopefully a relocation. My current posting sucked. I’d never wanted to deal with online piracy or anything even remotely related to it, but I had to do whatever assignments I was handed if I wanted to get ahead in my career. So for the last six months I’d worked closely with computer scientists, busting people guilty of internet fraud, online copyright issues, and so on.
It was boring with a capital B. But it paid the bills, so I couldn’t complain too much. After all, I was the one who had completed a Master’s degree in Biomedical Science and Genetics only to give up the offer of a PhD fellowship to join the FBI. Something had drawn me to the idea of solving crimes, and the rigors of my scientific education had certainly helped out with that. I approached everything in a coolly logical way, and I knew my superiors appreciated it.
Ten minutes later I was standing in Director Armstrong’s spacious office, tapping my fingernails against my curvy thighs as I waited for his phone call to end. Armstrong was a slim, balding man in his mid-fifties with a kindly air despite his status as one of the FBI’s head honchos.
“Sorry about that, Agent Peyton,” he said, hanging up the phone a moment later and gesturing for me to sit on a black leather chair in front of his desk. “Forgot the wife’s birthday and needed to organize something.”
“May I ask why I’m here, sir?” I said. “I assume it isn’t to organize a birthday party for your wife or help you choose gifts.”
His blue eyes crinkled around the sides with amusement as he matched my gaze with a wry grin. “No, that’s not quite it. I’ve asked you here today because I want to offer you a new position. Not something you’re used to, and certainly not something you’ve ever even heard of. But I think you’re the perfect agent for the job with your previous scientific qualifications. Tea or coffee?”
My head spun as I tried to think of what he could possibly be assigning me to. Ooh, maybe I was going to get to be part of some division that investigated any threats related to bioweaponry. That had always sounded challenging yet interesting, although I thought it was more of a CIA type of gig.
“Well, thanks for thinking of me, sir,” I replied. “What is the position? And yes, please…tea would be great. White with no sugar. So weak that it’s practically just hot water with milk.”
He grinned and quickly called his secretary in, and she brought us back tea in what seemed like no time at all. The warm liquid thawed out my insides from the biting early morning chill outside, and I sipped it as I waited for a response to my earlier question.
“Anyway, I’d tell you what the position is right now, but we’re still waiting on a third party,” he said, leaning back slightly. “You are one of two agents we want on this task force, and unfortunately he is quite late.”
“Who is he?” I asked, but I didn’t need to. Only a second after I spoke, the door opened, and I had to suppress the urge to roll my eyes as David Lyndon sauntered in.
Seeing him always sent my body into a tailspin of confusion. I couldn’t stand the guy, but there was no denying what he did to me, and probably every other woman he came within ten feet of. The man was gorgeous. With a lot more than a capital G. Seriously, even thinking of him made my heart jump in my chest and fireworks go off in my stomach.
He had golden-tanned skin with dark hair, flawless chiseled features and piercing green eyes, and also enough muscles to share with at least five other men. But like I said, I couldn’t stand him. Not after spending all that time down in Quantico with him at the academy, and certainly not after
night. He was a smooth-talking asshole, a womanizer and arrogant to boot. I suppose he couldn’t help it, what with women melting in his presence and practically throwing their panties at him.
“Myla,” he said, nodding in my direction and flashing that panty-dropping grin at me
. Not today, Lyndon. You wish.
I seethed at the idea of having to be paired with him, and I gave him a stiff nod in return. The last time I’d seen him was at some agency function in the city a year ago, where I’d taken pains to avoid him and then given him the cold shoulder when he’d caught me off guard and tried to start a conversation with me.
“Okay, let’s get down to it,” Director Armstrong said, motioning for Lyndon to sit. “I’ve asked you here today because we want you both working in this little department that’s been around for a while, but…err… well, most agents have never heard of it. And for good reason too. It’s a little… unorthodox.”
“Unorthodox how?” I asked sharply.
“It’s called the S Files,” he replied, looking at Lyndon and me to gauge our responses. I’d never heard of it, and I raised an eyebrow, but Lyndon clearly had because he simply smiled and nodded.
“This department investigates strange events around the country that regular police departments have classified as unsolved due to… how can I put this… due to extenuating circumstances.”
I raised my other eyebrow this time as well.
“What sort of extenuating circumstances?” I asked.
Director Armstrong looked slightly flustered, and it was clear he thought he was going to have a hard time getting me on board. “Paranormal events. Unexplained phenomena. Those sorts of shenanigans.”
This time I could barely contain my surprise. I’d heard of departments like this existing, but I’d always assumed it was part of the agency lore. Not real in any way. But here I was being asked to join the S Files, with David Lyndon of all people.
“Um. Okay then…. and why exactly is he here? Couldn’t find any other decent agents?” I jerked my head in Lyndon’s direction, plastering a big old fake saccharin-sweet smile on my face. I knew I was being unprofessional, but I just couldn’t help myself when it came to him.
Director Armstrong pursed his lips into a thin smile. “Now, now. I’m aware of the fact that you two didn’t exactly get along back in the day, but we need you both on this. Agent Lyndon has experience with certain matters that may come in handy.”
Lyndon smirked at me and I rolled my eyes. Experience, huh? As far as I knew, the only thing he was experienced at was talking women out of their panties…and out of their minds, I presumed. You’d have to be insane to actually fall for his so-called charms.
“Why is it called the S Files?” I asked. “What does the S stand for?”
Director Armstrong coughed and crossed his arms. “The S stands for Shifter. We have compelling reason to believe that many unexplained events that go on in this world can be explained by the existence of shapeshifters.”
I snorted back laughter. “This has got to be a joke. Shapeshifters?”
Lyndon narrowed his eyes at me, and Director Armstrong smiled. “Keep an open mind, Agent Peyton. Not everything can be explained with the logic of science. But that’s where you come in, to try and prove us wrong. To sort out the paranormal from the regular old things that can be explained rationally.”
This time I didn’t suppress the urge to roll my eyes. “Right. So when would we start?”
“Right away,” Armstrong replied. “You’ve both already been relieved of your current postings.”
Great. So apparently I didn’t even get a choice in the matter. Whether I liked it or not, I had been removed from my geeky position with the computer scientists and forced into the S Files, with Lyndon foisted upon me as well. Double whammy.
The S Files. What a ridiculous name. And the FBI believing in shifters? I’ll be damned. I was willing to bet that whatever allegedly paranormal events we looked into, there would be a rational explanation for all of them. Or else I’d eat my shirt.
Armstrong continued. “And we’ll need you both to take a plane to Denver tomorrow morning. Your first case awaits…”